Scobleization plus three years

Three years and two days ago, I got Scobleized.

The highlight of Robert’s informal talk was when he plugged his tablet into the projector in a packed room at the SJSU/MLK library and showed us his aggregator.

It was Bloglines at the time, not that it mattered.

I was blown away by the amount of information — and the quality — that Scoble’s 1200 or so subscriptions provided.

I had started reading a few blogs, and I was probably still using Firefox Live Bookmarks to track them.

By the end of the semester there were more than 200 feeds in my Bloglines account.

That was three years ago, at the very beginning of my New Media / blogging / future-of-newspapers adventures.

Another thing that sticks in my mind that day was Robert’s first question to a newsroom full of “reporting and editing” majors, something along the lines of “How many of you think you’ll be working for a newspaper in 5 or 10 years?”

He lost his audience when he told the roomful of undergraduates with their hands raised that they were wrong, and that they would be working for some other sort of online news organization, or as individual bloggers, but not certainly not in paper- and ink-based news.

Didn’t lose me, though.

The messy beginnings of an online portfolio

It’s not organized as well as I’d like, and it’s neither finished nor comprehensive, but if you can’t help but be interested in the sort of stories I wrote as a reporter (way back in 2006, mind you), there are now a few clips from the Spartan Daily and Oakland Tribune posted on my Work page.

There’s a video mixed into one story there that I overshot and Shaminder painstakingly edited down to something useful.  It was shot with my Panasonic consumer-grade handycam, and I think the reasoning behind the small size had everything to do with the way College Publisher processed Quicktime videos back then.  Pretty sure they have  a Flash solution now.

All of the stuff I’ve posted there is pretty old at this point. I’ll try and add some links soon to projects I’ve produced on at the Sentinel, videos I’ve shot, etc.

Enjoy, critique, deride, lambaste, and most of all, build your own online portfolio showcasing your work in your choice of medium.

More advice from Rob Curley

If you’re an aspiring young (or not) journalist and you don’t have the good sense to pay attention to what Rob Curley says, I sort of feel sorry for you. That’s the truth, harsh as it may seem. Whenever guys like Curley or Holovaty or anyone else speaks up who has taken online journalism and developed it an extra step to create something new or different or compelling — whether it’s a way to better tell a story or a way to better build a community — I tune right in, ears on strong.

So listen up:

Curley writes to Innovation in College Media’s Bryan Murley in “What sort of things should an aspiring journalist be thinking about?”:

“And my biggest advice would be to have at least one portfolio piece that shows you understand the importance of the things I’ve listed above. If you want to impress an editor who is hiring, show him/her that you aren’t just willing to do these sorts of things, but that you can’t wait to do these sorts of things. All things being equal, who do you think gets the job: the person who hands over a bunch of photocopied newspaper clips, or someone who also sends a link to a well-done multimedia project?”

Hey Spartan Daily kids (and all J-School students everywhere). Those of you just writing stories for the print edition, not participating in the blogs, not asking your faculty advisers when they’re going to get you one of those great audio recorders, not asking where you can borrow a video camera from, not asking the online editor to show you how the content management system works… WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Good luck at the internship with the weekly paper, but seriously, if you want more than that out of a journalism career, it’s time to either start learning on your own, or asking for more from your school.

If you ask them to teach you more, maybe they’ll get the idea that they should be teaching you more.

Which newspaper will drop its print edition first?

Wired News prediction for 2007: “A major newspaper gives up printing on paper to publish exclusively online.

Howard Owens doesn’t think so: “Ain’t happening. There’s still too much revenue tied up in print and not enough online. A major newspaper — I’m taking this to mean a major metro — couldn’t support it’s current news operation with a digital-only strategy. Not now. Not yet. Not for a couple to a few years.

Lucas Grindley follows the money: “If a newspaper stops printing, about two-thirds of its operating expenses are thrown out the window. No more newsprint. No more carriers. No more circulation department, sales kiosks and all that.

Bryan Murley says college papers can do it under certain circumstances:

  • A small advertising base
  • A majority of funding from student fees
  • A small staff
  • A visionary editor
  • A forward-thinking adviser
  • A fully wired campus

Calling the Spartan Daily

Steve Greene was right when he recommended the Daily become a weekly print paper with a continuous online news site, a la the [X]Press at San Francisco State.

Cue rant: I’m not going into the painful details about how much talking-head event coverage gets into the Daily, or how certain stories (and feature photos) are repeated each and every semester (ballroom dancing, anyone?), or how much superfluous wire copy gets into print during busy points in the school year, but seriously, students are being cheated out of the experience of working in a continuous news environment because the faculty sees the print product as the end-all be-all of newspapering. Note to my peers: As reporters, you will be expected to get stories done before 5pm on occasion, and they will be posted online immediately. That’s the real world of newspapers today. It’s nice that the Daily has trained a steady string of page designers, but it could just as easily turn out an annual crop of multimedia producers. Wouldn’t that be a bit of a modernization? End rant.

How much of the same can be said of your major metro daily? Or your small-to-medium town broadsheet replete with wire copy on international events and faraway football games?

How many broadsheets will be willing to start the process of change by re-aligning as tabloid-size papers with less cable news and Internet overlap of content?

We’ll see more announcements of this sort of thing in 2007.  I wish that college newspapers would lead adoption instead of following five years behind trends, but that might still be a pretty hefty wish.

Good luck to all daily print publications this year — they’re going to need it.

How would you create an online community at SJSU?

Daniel Sato, online editor of the Spartan Daily student newspaper at San Jose State University, is trying to come up with a way to let readers vote their own stories up the charts, to tackle the twin problems of there being little sense of community at SJSU (online OR off, in my opinion) and organizations constantly complaining that the school paper ignores them.

He’s talking about using Pligg to build a site where clubs and teams can essentially submit links to their own stories, and then the readers can vote on them as they please, a la Digg.

Will it work?

I’m skeptical, but then again, the first time Daniel pointed me to Digg, I wrote the site off as a bunch of losers who didn’t know anything about the stories they were voting on.

What do you think? Would you give your readers a “Submit This” button and then let them vote stories up and down a user-generated-content page?

Go tell Daniel.

Spartan Daily online redesign

That said, the Spartan Daily just launched a redesign on its College Publisher site.

Daniel Sato and Neal Waters started this project over the summer, and from the sound of things, getting an original design implemented on top of a CP template was more difficult this time around, compared to the pretty conventional design I worked up about a year ago.

Here’s a quick tour of the site’s development from Summer 2005 through today

How it was when I found it, Summer 2005:

Sometime during development before Fall 2005 launch of the first redesign I did:

Hmm. I don’t seem to have a screenshot of how the site actually looked in Fall 2005. Or what it looked like until yesterday. I actually need those. Ah, wait, the Wayback Machine can help with the most recent iteration. This shot is from Spring 2006:

Check out more of the Daily’s facelift, and keep in mind that there’s more to building a successful online student news site than making it look pretty.

The Spartan Daily is blogging

Meanwhile, back at the Spartan Daily, SJSU’s student newspaper, Daniel Sato and Neal Waters (I’m guessing they both had a hand in this) appear to have taken a few days off from their redesign of the online edition of the Daily to set up a WordPress blog for the paper.

Sports Editor Andrew Torrez live-blogged the Spartans’ 35-34 victory over Stanford yesterday (Oh, by the way, WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!), and it looks like a staff writer is blogging from the Dew Action Sports Tour meet in San Jose today.

Nice job, fellas. I sure hope you teased all this in Thursday’s paper…

I love this use of a student newspaper blog: Updates on news/sports/etc. over the weekend and between print publications, because you can and should engage your readers every chance you get.

The missing link for student newspapers: Software to support a continuous news desk

When the Spartan Daily made the transition to College Publisher in January, I was struck by just how driven by a daily print cycle an online publishing CMS could be.

Why should it be that way? Why make online production dependent on your print stories being ready for publication? Why wait until after the print edition has been proofed to push the button to publish online?

Most of these questions are answered by the limitations of the software. The newspaper is divided up into dated editions, discouraging students from continuously updating stories. We tried to workaround that by adding a newsticker across the top of the page to use for promos and breaking news. It pulls headlines from a WordPress blog, but little else.

Here’s a question: Many folks, myself include, point to the Golden Gate [X]Press at San Francisco State as a great online student news site. The [X]Press, if I’ve got my facts straight, publishes weekly in print, but updates the online edition continuously, as the stories are edited. The site isn’t run on a conventional newspaper CMS, but on Movable Type, used more often for blogs and other dynamic web content. (Prof. DeVigal, please correct me if any of this is wrong.)

When we talk about redesigning our online edition, the common plea is to “make it look less like a newspaper.”

So how do we do that? And how do we instill student editors with the notion that the Web is the first place they publish, as events happen?

I’m not (just) going to be a part of the handwringing chorus, so here’s a specific, albeit nebulous proposal:

Let’s take an open-source content management system like Mambo or Joomla and craft a few basic templates that don’t look like newspaper front pages frozen in time at 11:30pm last night. Then, let’s offer those up to college papers that can host themselves on university servers and don’t need a hosted solution paid for by national advertising.

Or not. But if you can code a College Publisher template into something that would be useful to a continuous news desk that publishes as soon as the stories are ready, please let me know how it turns out and where I can find one like it.

Actually, that’s what CP really needs: somewhere for coders to exchange information. New Digital Group (aka Digital Partners) had (has?) a message board, and although it was pretty dead by the time I got there, I could read through old posts and find solutions to some problems. That would be helpful.

Okay, I’m off on a rant, but here’s the point: Student newspapers need/want to transition their sites to something resembling a continuously updated news site, and they need a content management system that encourages them.

Check out Rich Cameron’s ideas about a common platform for online student papers, and the advantages of using College Publisher. For now.

Then read Bryan Murley’s chronicle of moving a student paper from static HTML pages to CP, and be sure to peruse the comments as well.

Classes started yesterday, and I showed up anyway

The one class I’m taking this semester (Research Methods) doesn’t start until Monday night, but I showed up at SJSU yesterday, anyway, to take care of some paperwork, turn in a draft of my thesis proposal, and hang out with/badger/heckle the staff of the Spartan Daily, our student newspaper.

The print edition of the Daily has been redesigned, as it often is at the beginning of a new semester, and I’m going to keep my thoughts on it to myself until a few weeks go by and things get shaken into place.

The Daily’s Web site is still pretty much in the shape I left it in after the last redesign I did, but there’s a complete reworking of it going on behind the scenes. It’s really refreshing to not be working on it myself, but to have it in the hands of an actual coder who knows how to move the pieces around. I might have gotten the biggest compliment (okay, the only compliment) ever on my coding skills when Neal told me the hooks and divs I had added to the layout so that I could jam my own css onto it actually helped him figure out what was going on and what classes to work with.

Is that proof that I know what I’m doing? Thankfully, no, but it did give me a shove to get back to learning some more basic xhtml/css stuff I’ve been putting off. I’m still working on my own redesign of this here blog you’re reading… no launch date for that yet. At all. Whatsoever.

So watch the Daily for a new look, subscribe to its RSS feed for the latest headlines, and go to class. Yeah, you, go to class. Now.